Allan Bloom and the closing of the American mind essay

spiritual values leads to the development of relativism in students, when they believe they can be whatever they want to be. In this regard, Bloom is very critical in relation to such relativism bred in students by colleges and Universities. Allan Bloom argues that the development of relativism and the belief of students in their ability to choose their way of life, regardless of other people lead to the growing individualization of the society and further destruction of existing moral values and norms and spirituality at large. Students are not limited by any cultural or moral norms anymore. Instead, they believe they can be whatever they want to be. Such philosophy is absolutely destructive and dangerous because this philosophy destroys spirituality and basic cultural values. Bloom is very anxious about such degradation of spiritual values to the extent that he compares the contemporary education to the Nazi brownshirts, who filled the gap created by the Weimar Republic. In fact, the author believes that the US has the similar gap today, when the values and norms of the past are neglected by the higher education and students, who are driven by scientific and academic knowledge alone. Therefore, the author warns against the growing gap in spirituality of students and their moral degradation which may be disastrous for the nation. In such a context, the hypothetical risk of the US following the lead of the Nazi Germany seems to be quite realistic (Bloom, 143). The current spiritual and ideological vacuum and the domination of sheer scientific knowledge can provoke the rise of a radical ideology that offers some radical, extremist spiritual values and norms. Furthermore, Bloom argues that the contemporary higher education annihilates students’ desire for self-discovery by making all endeavors of equal value. What is meant here is the fact that students’ desire for self-discovery becomes pointless because they see no difference in their efforts and outcomes of their self-discovery are of no interest for them. Students believe that ultimately, there is no substantial difference in them but they are just humans like others and they perform a set of functions in the course of their life. Such a view on the self of students discourages them not only to conduct self-discovery but also leads to the abandonment of their requirements to take languages and study philosophy of science. They do not feel like they need history, or philosophy, or languages. American students are conscious of the fact that English is a vehicle language and they can use it for international communication, if necessary. As for philosophy, there is no point for students to study philosophy because the contemporary higher education makes self-discovery pointless (Podhoretz, 6). Obviously, if students are unwilling to conduct self-discovery, they will be even more reluctant to discover philosophical concepts, issues and problems. Instead, they are narrow, if not to say, shallow individuals focused on their professional education and skills that have some practical value in the real world, in their professional career, for instance. Naturally, in a situation, there is no room for spirituality. On the other hand, Bloom argues that the contemporary higher education activates students’ amour-propre – self-love or esteem based on others’ opinions (polls). This means that the contemporary higher education increases the impact of peer groups and social environment of students but, at the same time, the higher education develops self-love or esteem of students based on this opinion. They just take their position in the society and perceive themselves just like they are without any attempts to change themselves or to make themselves any better. This is another effect of devaluation of cultural values and spirituality in the contemporary higher education and the total neglect of self-discovery. Instead, students rely on the opinion of others to shape their image of themselves, which they accept and like. However, such a trend to rely on opinion of others expands not only on the view of students on themselves but also on other important issues. For instance, Bloom argues that the contemporary higher education teaches studens a loose interpretation of documents such as the Constitution, a waffling philosophy based on “it all depends”. At this point, the authors stresses that students do not even study original documents, such as the original text of the Constitution or other historical texts as well as authors of the past. Instead, the rely on researches conducted by different scientists, they rely on textbooks and other secondary sources, while primary sources remain virtually untouched. This is exactly where the major problem of the contemporary higher education arises, according to Bloom, because he believes that it is through the analysis of primary sources and original texts of documents and works of outstanding philosophers and scientists students can form the adequate view on these documents and ideas of philosophers and scientists. Moreover, students can get a deeper look into the essence of these documents and works of different authors. In such a way, students can uncover many issues which remain hidden from them, when they use secondary sources. On developing his argument concerning the ineffectiveness of the contemporary higher education, Bloom argues that the higher education closes students to doubt about so many things impeding progress. He argues that the contemporary higher education makes students doubt in the progress and the possibility of the improvement of the life of society. Therefore, colleges and Universities encourage the rise of individualism of students and their focus on material values, which they can enjoy (Nussbaum, 45). Students just ignore important humanistic values because their skepticism in relation to spiritual and cultural values is excessive. In such a way, Bloom accomplishes the formation of one of his concepts of openness as the openness of indifference, which he believes to be destructive and dehumanizing the contemporary higher education and students.

Leave a Reply